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Tampa Bay pitcher Tyler Alexander stellar in 4-3 win over Toronto Blue Jays

Starting pitcher Tyler Alexander flirted with a perfect game as the Tampa Bay Rays held off the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 on Friday.

Alexander (2-2) didn’t allow a baserunner through 7 1/3 innings, but ultimately surrendered three runs on three hits and struck out four.

Relievers Manuel Rodriguez and Pete Fairbanks pitched scoreless ball the rest of the way.

If Alexander had kept any runners off the basepaths it would have been the 25th perfect game in Major League Baseball’s history.

Richie Palacios hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning as Tampa Bay (24-22) won its third straight. Randy Arozarena’s clever base running and Jonny DeLuca’s RBI single provided the rest of the offence.

Davis Schneider’s two-run blast in the eighth broke up Alexander’s shutout as Toronto (19-24) mounted a comeback. Pinch-hitter Cavan Biggio added an RBI single in the same inning.

Chris Bassitt (3-6) allowed three runs on five hits and struck out five over 5 2/3 innings. Zach Pop of Brampton, Ont., Genesis Cabrera, Erik Swanson, and Nate Pearson came out of the Blue Jays bullpen.

Bassitt reached a career milestone in the third inning when Rays catcher Ben Rortvedt was assessed a third strike for a batter pitch timer violation. It was the 900th strikeout of Bassitt’s career.

Arozarena’s savvy base running opened the scoring for Tampa Bay in the sixth inning.

He hit a one-out double to left field to reach base and then, in the next at bat, Jonathan Aranda grounded out to second baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

Arozarena sprinted to third base while Toronto first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was focused on catching Kiner-Falefa’s throw. Guerrero then threw the ball wide as he tried to pick off Arozarena at third, allowing the Rays left-fielder to score.

Isaac Paredes drew a walk in the next at bat and then Palacios smashed his fourth home run of his season for a 3-0 Tampa lead. Palacios connected on the sixth pitch he saw, a 72.7 m.p.h. sweeper, sending it 373 feet to right field to end Bassitt’s night.

It appeared that Kiner-Falefa had ended Alexander’s bid for a perfect game in the bottom of the sixth with a hit to shallow right field, but outfielder Jose Lowe made a low diving grab for the out.

DeLuca tacked another run on to the Rays’ lead with an RBI single in the seventh inning. His base hit to centre field drove in Rortvedt from third.

Alexander settled in after Kiner-Falefa’s flare out, retiring the next five batters he faced with flyballs.

Jansen broke up his perfect game with a single to shallow right field and then two pitches later — Alexander’s 99th of the game — Schneider hit his fifth home run of the season. His line drive travelled 394 feet to left-centre field to cut the Rays’ lead to two runs.

Biggio, pinch hitting for third baseman Ernie Clement, drove in another run three batters later with a single that scored Daulton Varsho from second. George Springer grounded into a double play to end the inning but the damage was done, with Alexander chased from the game and Tampa holding only a 4-3 lead.

VOTTO WARMING UP — Toronto native Joey Votto, who signed a free-agent deal with the Blue Jays on March 8, has begun taking live batting practice and running the bases at the team’s minor-league facility in Dunedin, Fla. Toronto manager John Schneider said that Votto will start playing in the Florida Complex League.

ON DECK — Kevin Gausman (2-3) will take the mound Saturday afternoon as the Blue Jays continue their series with Tampa Bay. Zach Eflin (3-4) is scheduled for the Rays.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2024.

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